Big leaderboard displays and exchanging scorecards at the end of a round are synonymous with tournament golf. Interaction and players holding each other accountable have always been encouraged.
Those things have been replaced this summer, at least locally, by safety signs and digital scoring. Interaction has been replaced by the encouragement of social distancing due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s gone very well and I think some of this may stick at the local or regional level, but when you still get to the PGA Tour, they still are going to have to have two signatures and they are going to continue to follow the book,” said Jason Cox, director of junior golf for the Carolinas Golf Association, about players exchanging scorecards to approve and sign them. “However at our level, and we do have limited staff, I think you see (scoring procedures) a little more relaxed and just making sure that people are playing golf and having fun. ... The PGA Tour has a staff of probably 30 to 50 people, plus the volunteers that they have. There’s some stuff like that we just can’t do.”
The Tarheel Youth Golf Association, in fact, had no volunteers working this week for the Coastal Plains Junior Amateur held Tuesday and Wednesday at Greenville Country Club. Overseeing the tournament were three staff members from TYGA and three more from Greenville CC.
Caddies at the professional level have been using towels to remove flagsticks for their golfers. TYGA does not allow caddies, and flags must remain in the hole at all times.
Instead of volunteers positioned every three holes to track scoring and check in with players, the players themselves are responsible for keeping social distance and walking to the main computer area every nine holes to update a TYGA representative with their score.
“You think back to last summer, and I would sign my scorecard as my own player and sign another player’s scorecard as their marker,” said Robert Allen, a J.H. Rose High School graduate from this year who said he plays in a few TYGA events per month. “We don’t do that anymore. We don’t shake hands and are not allowed to get within six feet of each other.”
As a person who has played competitive golf for most of his life, Allen admitted it is difficult on the course and in natural moments to not extend a high-five to a fellow player. Some players at Greenville Country Club went with forearm bumps when they finished the 18th hole. Others simply retrieved their ball and walked to the scoring tent.
Many of the coronavirus-specific rules are tailored toward not socializing or clustering, which includes even after a golfer completes their round.
“Have a good time and see you later, because as soon as you get done, we ask you to go ahead and leave,” Cox said.
Pitt County natives Cameron Hardison, Gray Mitchum and Matthew Richardson were all among the top-five at the end of the fist round of the Coastal Plains Junior Amateur. Kyle Haas, from Winston-Salem, emerged as the two-round winner at 7-under with a one-stroke edge on Winterville’s Mitchum. Hardison tied for fourth.
Eight girls competed, including Winterville native Peyton Nichols. Sierra Cardi (Wilmington) took first place.
CGA/TYGA tournaments resumed May 30 in Jacksonville. There was a tourney held in Snow Hill last month, and future events include in Raleigh, Pinehurst and in Greenville at Ironwood (July 14-16) and Brook Valley (August 4).
“We’re trying to still promote junior golf in the safest way possible,” said Rob Farmer, Greenville Country Club’s head golf professional. “I would definitely say that the CGA puts this together and we’re just the host facility. You can see that they have tons of signage out and we’re just trying to do everything we can to still allow the kids to have a summer filled with golf and to compete and enjoy the golf course.”